Half-Life 3 release date, news and rumours

Nothing's confirmed, everything's to play for

Half Life 3

It's fair to say that the hype around Half-Life 3 has moved past ridiculous, jumped on a longhaul flight to "the great beyond", looked back over its shoulder to see ridiculous as a tiny speck in the distance - then kept going. It's one of the biggest running jokes of the internet, and it's gone on for far too long.

Yet here we are, still mulling over the possibility that we'll one day see Valve return to its most-loved franchise for one more outing, despite the fact Half-Life 2: Episode 2 was released all the way back in 2007 and we have heard very little about the franchise since.

It's impressive that Valve has managed to so elegantly tread the line between confirmation and denial through numerous interviews and years of being pestered about the possibility of a third game. It's this refusal to flat-out deny the existence of Half-Life 3 that has propelled speculation for almost a decade.

So, as we write this in 2015, what's the likelihood that Half-Life 3 might happen? E3 2015 might bring more news now that Source 2 has been announced, but then Valve doesn't really need E3, does it?

We break everything down to three major topics that could indicate when the most mythical game of all time might finally appear.

It's in the source

On March 3 at GDC 2015, Valve officially announced Source 2, which, given that Counter Strike-Source and Half-Life 2 helped introduce the original Source engine, has put speculation engine back into overdrive. Perhaps Valve has been holding out for Source 2 this entire time.

So far, Valve has only revealed that the engine will be free to developers; we have no word on price or any games that will be running it. But something is surely coming, and Half-Life 3 could be that something.

Furthermore, the announcement of the HTC Vive, the first virtual reality headset that will be running on Valve's VR technology, has stirred the pot. As has the re-announcement of Valve's Steam Machines.

The Machines will touch down with SteamOS and the Vive headset at the end of 2015, and it would make a lot of sense for Valve to use all this new technology to showcase one of its own in-house titles. There's been much speculation that Left 4 Dead 3 could be first on the cards - fans of Valve's zombie franchise are also hungry for a third installment.

And possibly the concept art

In June 2012, a bunch of concept art, at the time assumed to be from Half-Life 2: Episode 3, was leaked onto the web. What's odd is that Valve still hasn't commented on the validity of these, leading many of us to suspect that they are indeed legitimate - and may actually end up as part of Half-Life 3.

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Furthermore, last year we reported that the Counter Strike co-creator Minh Lee openly admitted to seeing some concept art himself. "I don't think I can talk about that, to be honest," he said. "I think it's kind of public knowledge that people know that it is being worked on. And so if I were to say that, yeah, I've seen some images, like some concept art of it, that wouldn't be big news to be honest. I guess I could say that I did see something that looked kinda like in the Half-Life universe."

"And I mean it wouldn't surprise anyone if I said they're doing it, they're working on it, yeah. So to go out on a limb I'd say I did some concept art for Half-Life 3."

Culture war

Newell himself has hinted at why we haven't seen Half-Life 3 yet, and indeed why we might never see it at all. The answer? Social gaming.

"So, is somebody becomes the group manager of X, they're going to really resist it when X is not what you want to do in the next round of games," said Newell in an interview with The Washington Post in 2004. "You don't want them to sort of burrow into that - you want them to recognize that being really good at Half-Life level design is not as nearly as valued as thinking of how to design social multiplayer experiences. You've had them feel like they have an organisation and title ties up to something when the key is to just continue to follow where the customers are leading."

Herein may lie the harsh truth: Valve has shifted to focus on bigger social experiences such as its successful Dota 2, which is almost the antithesis of Half-Life.

But, still, Newell refuses to rule anything out. In a separate interview in March 2015, Newell responded to a question about the possibility of a third game: "The only reason we'd go back and do like a super classic kind of product is if a whole bunch of people just internally at Valve said they wanted to do it and had a reasonable explanation for why [they did]."

Thanks Gabe, that clears up absolutely nothing.